Meet the CSA Team: Michael Aki

A portrait of Michael Aki, Senior Director of Design and UX

Interviewer: What is your name?

Michael: Michael Aki

Interviewer: What is your position at CSA?

Michael: Senior Director of Design and UX

Interviewer: What does that position entail?

Michael: My role is a hybrid role, as it spans both the traditional and digital areas. On the traditional side, I lead the creative efforts in design and product development to produce everything from marketing collateral to small and large print programs that encompass virtually all K–12 subject areas. I also have experience in the higher-ed market. 

On the digital side, my primary role is to lead the efforts of the UI/UX team in the design and testing of various digital initiatives and products. I provide feedback on visual and creative elements, plus the overall user experience, with the end goal of ensuring products are as user-friendly as possible, and initiating and guiding any necessary research for the development of consumer scenarios, personas, and market analysis, as it pertains to projects.

Interviewer: How did you become a part of CSA?

Michael: A former teammate recommended me for the position. To be honest, after taking a two-year hiatus, I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back into working full time again. But I liked the challenge the position entailed in regard to building a creative presence and team. Besides, life would be boring if you didn’t take on a challenge or two, not counting my two kids, of course.

Interviewer: What is the best part of your job?

Michael: Working remotely. I love the flexibility and being more “present” for my kids. While I do miss the relationships you build in an office environment, CSA is great about being very communicative. While there is no water cooler to gather around and gossip, we have chat apps, video meetings, and email. We live in a world that allows a lot more connectivity now. It’s really quite an amazing thing.

Interviewer: What do you wish people knew about your work at CSA?

Michael: Creative and design is, I’d say, 80 percent cerebral with only 20 percent actual creative implementation. So “no,” those of us in the creative field don’t just draw all day. There is a misconception that creatives just sprinkle fairy dust and suddenly, beautiful things magically appear. Beautiful things do appear, but first, we need to make the fairy dust before we can even sprinkle it. That requires a lot of work, thought, organization, research, testing, budget planning, strategy…Most people don’t see those parts, they just see the end results. Sometimes, the fairy dust is just bad, so then we have to start again. It’s all part of the process to get to that beautiful thing clients ultimately want. And don’t even get me started on the glitter…

Interviewer: What do you wish schools focused on more in terms of education and why? 

Michael: Critical thinking, diversity and inclusion, and how it relates to history and a student’s potential to hopefully make a better world. I have always been a huge proponent of providing fair and equitable education to our children. The more unbiased knowledge they have about the world and the different cultures that make up the world, I feel, leads them to becoming more caring and compassionate people as they grow into adults. 

Interviewer: What are three interesting facts about you?

Michael: I studied Ballet and Hula for many years; I practice Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong (Thai martial arts and weapons training); and I was the 1984 Hawai’i Springboard Diving champion my senior year in high school.

Click here to learn more about Michael!

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